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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

XVI. Children’s Books

§ 15. Maria Edgeworth

Enthusiasts are the best mirror of tendencies; and Mrs. Trimmer and Mrs. Sherwood were both enthusiasts. The moral tendency is much less explicit in other writers. Least of all is it intrusive in the best of them; the best, perhaps, of all writers for children—Maria Edgeworth—as her novels prove, was, also, an inspired story-teller. In sheer skill of construction alone, her Parent’s Assistant (1796; enlarged in later editions), Moral Tales (1801), Harry and Lucy and Frank are masterpieces of the inevitable. The moral, it is true, is always perfectly clear, but it is a sympathetic moral—it is a part of universal justice and human nature. The grace and tender humour of these little tales has never been surpassed; Scott’s often quoted eulogy of Simple Susan—“when the boy brings back the lamb to the little girl, there is nothing for it but to put down the book and cry”—is hardly a hyperbole.